Riot squads sent to Leicester after trouble between Hindus and Muslims

Clashes in the English city first broke out after the India-Pakistan cricket match last month

Police officers are seen on The Mall on the day of the state funeral and burial of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. Reuters
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British police were diverted from Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral in London on Monday to deal with disorder in the East Midlands city of Leicester.

Riot squads were drafted in to deal with violence between young people from Hindu and Muslim communities. A Leicester faith leader said the violence had been sparked by a "country-based dispute" after the Asia Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan in Dubai on August 28.

The unrest in the English city took place at the weekend, prompting extra officers to be drafted in from the West Midlands, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire Police said. Thames Valley Police sent horses to bolster the operation.

The widespread disorder led to 47 arrests. Half of the first 18 people who were arrested came from outside the county, it has been reported. Of the nine people arrested, five came from Birmingham, with one each from Solihull, Luton and Hounslow respectively.

Sixteen officers and a police dog were injured in the violence.

The disorder first broke out on Saturday following a protest in the east of the city. Another protest involving 100 people occurred on Sunday.

But the area was quiet into Monday and no new incidents were reported overnight.

Stop-and-search powers were introduced following the violence.

Amos Noronha, 20, was sentenced to 10 months in jail after pleading guilty to possession of an offensive weapon in connection with the violence.

Suleman Nagdi, from the city's Federation of Muslim Organisations, said it was the first time he could remember the Hindu and Muslim communities becoming violent. Mr Nagdi said "loyalties kicked in" after last month's cricket match.

Two arrests were initially made when police said disturbances broke out at an unplanned protest on Saturday night and Sunday morning.

"Officers became aware of groups of young men gathering on Sunday afternoon in the North Evington area of the city," Leicestershire Police said, confirming the first 15 arrests.

"Officers spoke to them and took steps, including putting in place a temporary police cordon, to minimise harm and disturbance to communities."

The force added that all 15 people remained in policy custody just past midnight on Monday morning.

Proactive patrols are continuing in the area, with the force describing the violence as "unacceptable".

Mr Nagdi said: "We always say the global impacts the local.

"The start (of the disorder) was the cricket match ― it is a country-based dispute.

"It is usually younger people who are involved in it ― hopefully we can connect with their parents."

He said he understood the constraints police were under due to the queen's funeral.

"By and large, the police have kept us informed, they have kept us connected," Mr Nagdi said.

City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby told the BBC: "We often talk about the good community relations in Leicester, but you can never be complacent about it, you can never take it for granted.

"It is always a work in progress and it is quite clear there is work to be done here."

Tensions

Tensions in Leicester have been simmering for “months,” said independent MP for Leicester East, Claudia Webbe.

She said she wrote to Leicestershire Police’s temporary chief constable at the start of the month, and then again, before the weekend’s recent trouble.

She shared the letter on Twitter which she sent on September 1, detailing “serious concerns” of residents, who were afraid to leave their homes at night, after reports of violence following the match on August 28.

She said some constituents had voiced fears to her that violence was driven in part by “underlying Islamophobia in parts of Leicester’s communities, rather than an isolated incident”.

Days later, on September 14, Ms Webbe, again writing to the chief constable, about “ongoing disturbances” and “incitement to hate” listed incidents on September 5, and on September 9, following which two arrests were made.

She said constituents had told her “tensions in the community may be more long-standing and not narrowly related to the India v Pakistan” match, pre-dating that flashpoint by “several months”.

Writing before the weekend’s latest incidents, Ms Webbe again warned of “the risk of escalation if community tensions increase”, and claimed people were reportedly using social media platform to stoke trouble.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour MP for Leicester South, called the recent troubles a “dark episode” in a city where he and residents “rightly pride ourselves on celebrating our diversity”.

“It has always been the case – re-confirmed from my conversations across communities – that the vast majority of Leicester’s Hindu and Muslim communities are law abiding and continue to enjoy longstanding good relations," he said.

“These strengths will help us through this dark episode.”

Updated: September 20, 2022, 1:13 PM
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